Create and Track Your Gift List, or Send a Silly Holiday Card

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It's the holiday season, and I'm so jam-packed with cheer that it doesn't matter that I'll be spending the holidays on a beach in a country where the chances of a white Christmas -- weather I always hope for -- are small.

But while I'm out strolling the beach, snapping snowless photos, I'll have my smartphones and tablets with me, loaded with seasonal apps. And there are some great ones.

One that comes with a helping of nostalgia and could be suitable for older children, is "A Charlie Brown Christmas," $5 on iOS or Android. It's an e-book with interactive elements on each page, narrated by none other than Peter Robbins -- the original animated voice of Charlie Brown. He's grown up now, but where Charlie speaks in the story, you hear classic recordings of Peter being Charlie. Children will love the graphics that react to touch, like the playable piano. It is adorable, but so steeped in Charlie Brown history that you may, like me, find the mood of the cartoon a bit depressing.

More silliness can be found in Christmas Booth Festive Photo Fun, free on iOS, in which you apply stickers to a photo to make anyone look like Santa, an elf and other characters. It's ideal for making images for silly greeting cards. The usual iPhone gestures control the stickers, making the app easy to use. For Android, a similar free app is Santa Camera, but adjusting the stickers' size and angle is done through a menu and thus is not as intuitive.

More seasonal fun can be found in 3-D Christmas Live Wallpaper, free on Android, which offers a sparkling tree-shaped graphic as your device's background image. Among the many festive wallpapers in the app store, this is my favorite: it gently animates as you switch screens, and from time to time it changes into a glittery countdown clock.

A different holiday countdown is found in the official Norad Tracks Santa app. On Christmas Eve, it follows Santa as he speeds around the world on his sleigh to deliver gifts. But until then, it has some simple games to divert you and a precise countdown clock. It's free and available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8.

Those who fancy adding some seasonal ringtones and alerts to an Android device might check out Christmas Ringtones, free from JRJ Unlimited. Its tunes and sound effects can be set as alerts with a simple long press on the icons. Some of them are merry indeed, but here's a warning: Don't let your children play with this if you don't want to hear endless sleigh bells or ho-ho-ho's before Christmas Day.

Apps can also help you with gift-giving. If you're at a loss for ideas, you may find the Gift Professor (free on iOS and Android) helpful. I was skeptical as I tapped in details for my wife, like her profession, personality and interests. But the app ultimately came up with some gift ideas that I think she'd genuinely like. You can use it simply to generate ideas, but it also has links to online stores, allowing you easily buy the items it suggests.

The Gifted - Gift List Manager app ($2 on iOS) is similarly handy; it helps you track your gift ideas and your progress in buying them. You can use it to keep notes on a person's preferences and clothing sizes, and it can help you track how much money you've spent. It's both neatly designed and well organized -- so much so that if you thrive on the chaos of holiday gift shopping, you'll dislike it. Free Christmas List, a similar app on Android, has an interface that is graphically more entertaining, though it doesn't have quite the sophistication of the iOS offering.

Holiday season is also party season, and for those who are planning a gathering, Simple Soiree ($2 on iOS) is for you. It's an organizer that can help you manage everything from guest lists to shopping for supplies.

And with that, all that's left for me to do is to wish you a merry old time.

Quick Calls

A beautiful app to count down to Christmas, the New Year or someone's birthday is Countdown Star, for $2 on iOS. A nice feature is that it's easy to switch from counting in days to hours or even seconds. ... Android users may like the new Wakeify-Spotify Alarm. This free app connects to your Spotify account, so you arise to your favorite tunes. It cleverly controls the volume to wake you gently.

interact

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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